The forces of so-called “Social Justice” continue to rampage in our educational institutions. My daughter is attending a public high school and she started asking me questions about her Social Studies homework. She didn’t like my answers because I sounded like one of those evil capitalists… So I asked to see what material she was being taught. I always need the curriculum was skewed to the left, but I had no idea how much.
She was given a hand out called “One Size Fits All”, a commentary on how the cultural mosaics of the world are being subsumed by mass media and cultural imperialism. In four short pages it covered the extinction of small languages; the ubiquity of western television and music trends at the expense of local cultures (which is placed firmly at the feet of multinational media companies); the expansion of western brands around the world, with a focus on fast food; and dominance of western capitalism over alternative economic systems.
For the first, it makes a pretty strong case that the extinction of languages is terrible because something is being lost. However, language is simply the human development to allow higher level communication. The fact that people might choose to speak English or Spanish instead of Inuktituk or Basque doesn’t prevent communication. All it does is make is EASIER for everyone to communicate. Many people argue that the advance of English as the dominant language on the planet is due to the “imperialism” of Britain and then the United States. While there is obviously something to the former (actual imperialism), I would make the point that English is more dominant because English is a very flexible and very expressive language (largely because of it’s fluid rules).
With regard to the second, or cultural imperialism subsuming local cultures – it would be far more interesting to talk about WHY this happens, rather than just bemoaning it. The culture of Western Europe, North America, Australia and to a lesser extent Japan, is attractive to people in other parts of the world because it offers them a window and a hope for a better life. The so-called “West” has been rich and relatively free for a couple of hundred years. Rich and free is attractive, especially for people who are poor and oppressed (either by religion, culture or politics). Some cultures do survive contact with the west (e.g. Bollywood). For those that bemoan the loss of cultures because a reduction in diversity is a bad thing should ask themselves a question – are all cultures equally valuable? Are all societies equivalent? The obvious answer is no – but cultural relativists have been lying to many for decades.
The expansion of western brands is another funny one, particularly as they call out the fast food industry as the example. Is fast food bad for us – in excess, of course. But it provides a service to fill the market for cheap, quick meals for people on the go. But if we look at other industries, one should note that there are more and more multinationals that are not “western”, and definitely not “American”. Soon, Volkswagen will be the worlds largest and most profitable carmaker. Samsung is one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world. HSBC is one of the few “global banks”. You see their logos everywhere, around the world. The expansion of mass market brands around the world is a fact of capitalism. The reason the first wave was dominated by American and European firms was that they understood capitalism first. The rest of the world will come around.
Finally – the arguments expressed in the document on capitalism are atrocious:
The economic culture of the west is totally dominant… Some countries have tried other systems, notably communism in the Soviet Union, China, and other nations, but they have been crushed by the capitalist juggernaut.
This makes it sound like these other systems were actually viable. No clear statement that Capitalism is dominant because it is the only economic system that works and is stable over the long term.
Another part of the article talks about the damage globalisation and capitalism had on Mexican corn farmers when NAFTA went into effect. It states that American agribusiness (not farmers) sold corn in Mexico below the cost of local production, putting Mexican farmers out of the work and damaging the village culture in rural Mexico. There is no mention made that this action also reduced the price of food for the much larger group of Mexican consumers. Nor does it mention that in later years government mandated ethanol production drove the US price of corn so high that Mexican families suddenly couldn’t afford food and the economic status of the Mexican farmer was suddenly improved.
Finally – the report references the socialist text “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” by Chris Hedges, quoting:
The corporate culture…has seeped into our classrooms, our newsrooms, our entertainment systems and our consciousness.
Egads! Corporations come off sounding as if they are an evil plague on our society. No mention that the development of the corporation in Italy in the 15th century is one of the reasons why the west got rich and developed technology…
In future posts, I will critique the CBE Grade 10 Social Studies text, Perspectives on Globalization. A brief perusal of this book finds many quotes from such eminent persons as Maude Barlow and glowing sidebars on such enlightened leaders as Evo Morales. That alone should make this text unacceptable for our children.